Saturday, March 20, 2010

For the First Day of Spring...

... we have forecasted snow.
Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones, by Judy Schachner.  In a non-library related endeavor, I've started doing some volunteer work with the my local Junior Achievement program (This website doesn't have our town information yet-- it's our first year here in this city, and none of us know what we are doing yet.)   :)  This week was my meet-the-class day and as soon as I said I was a librarian, I had to jettison any plans I had for going over any real content: we spent the next 20 minutes talking about books.  It was very encouraging to see the kids so engaged-- they all had a favorite book they wanted to know if I'd read, so most of the questions were "Do you like Susie B. Jone?" "Have you read The Black Lagoon?" etc.  There were a few really good questions that let me talk about books in general and reading: "Have you ever read a book you didn't like?" "What's your favorite book ever?"  "Do you read nonfiction?"  Hopefully, in addition to helping the class through the Junior Achievement program, I can also be a force for good with kids who are still learning to read for fun.
The point of this whole thing is that the Skippyjon Jones books came out as a clear favorite among many of the students.  I promised I would try the books, since so many children seemed to like them, and so I have done.  This isn't a bad book, but I didn't find much to love about it.  I described it to a colleague as "beige."  I can see why kids might think it's fun, but the jokes aren't terribly funny, the silliness isn't very original, and it doesn't really call out to the imagination.  The pictures are good, but the story is missing that spark that turns an ok idea into a wonderful story.  I can't image why it's the huge, roaring success among the K-2nd set that it is.

Almost Perfect, by Brian Katcher.    This book was everything I'd hoped for.  It brought out all the gender and personal identity issues that were sadly lacking in Cycler.  The point of view used in this book is perfect-- this is both a book about transgendered people and people who know transgendered people.  I love how the main character both makes all the mistakes and thinks and says all the hurtful things that many people would experience, but also works toward a more accepting, understanding viewpoint.  It's also good that the (spoiler!) the transgendered character's final choice is left open.  It's a big deal, and a difficult choice to make, especially at such a young age.  Sage's ambivalent feelings are more realistic than a character who thinks the future is clear-cut.
Having this book in a library isn't going to be without its problems-- not everyone will appreciate the views put forth in this book.  But you don't have to agree with the characters' choices and decisions, I hope, to appreciate this book. 

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